Hep C Outbreak Linked to Colorado Surgical Tech GrowsJul 20, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP The hepatitis C scandal that originated in Denver, Colorado has not only expanded to two other states, but its victim toll has risen to 11. The Denver Post just reported that 11 patients from the Rose Medical Center have contracted the dangerous and sometimes deadly blood borne liver disease. New York and Texas are also investigating the outbreak.
The Denver Post noted that there have been no cases of the disease from the Audubon Surgery Center in Colorado Springs, citing health officials. Nearly, 1,800 patients have been tested for hepatitis C in the past two weeks, since news broke about Kristen Diane Parker, 26, a former employee at both Rose and Audubon, said the Denver Post. Parker has been accused of allegedly swapping sterile Fentanyl syringes with dirty, saline-filled syringes; Parker has tested positive for hepatitis C.
As we’ve reported previously, Parker faces federal criminal charges for her alleged conduct. The former surgical tech worked at Rose Medical Center in Denver from Oct. 21 to April 13 and at Colorado Springs’ Audubon Surgery Center from May 4 until June 29. She was allegedly swapping syringes to feed her addiction. In Colorado, 6,000 patients have been alerted that they may have been exposed to hepatitis C because of Parker’s actions. Now, officials say that the 11 cases may be linked to Parker.
An earlier Associated Press (AP) report said Parker tested positive for hepatitis C before she began working at Rose, but never followed-up on the diagnoses. A federal magistrate has since ordered Parker jailed without bond, saying she switched the needles even though she knew she had hepatitis C, the AP said previously.
The AP also reported earlier that Parker worked at hospitals in New York and Texas, which has since prompted officials in those states to launch their own investigations. In Texas, Parker worked at Christus St. John Hospital outside Houston between May 2005 and October 2006, the AP said. An investigation began there last week; however, officials say that it is too early to determine if any patients are at risk.
According to the same AP article, New York health officials are advising 2,800 patients who underwent surgery at Northern Westchester Hospital in Mount Kisco between Oct. 8, 2007, and Feb. 28, 2008 to get tested for hepatitis C. It is not yet known if Parker had hepatitis C while she was employed at Northern Westchester Hospital, and, so far, no cases of the disease have been reported.
The Denver Post reported that of the patients tested at the two Colorado facilities, five patients did test positive for hepatitis C, but were not connected to Parker. State health officials in that state are testing the “genetic makeup” of hepatitis C in all the blood samples that come back with positive results, said the Denver Post. Once a positive test is received, the samples are then sent to the labs at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for additional testing, said the Denver Post.
Hepatitis C is spread by contact with infected body fluids, especially blood. The disease attacks the liver, and can lead to cirrhosis or cancer of the liver. There is no vaccine for hepatitis C and the disease can be fatal. The disease is incurable, but can be treated. Symptoms include nausea, diarrhea, fatigue, pain, and jaundice.